Outside the Box


Opinion Roundup: Let's be real - the N.C. budget could do more

Posted June 26

GOP touts budget as it nears passage

Monday, June 26, 2017 -- A roundup of opinion, commentary and analysis on the good, bad and ugly of this year's budget, a new analysis showing how gerrymandering has tilted N.C. politics, reflections on the four years since the Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act decision and more.

Reasonable state budget could do more (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- Lawmakers sent the $23 billion biannual budget to Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature on Thursday. Pitt County’s Rep. Greg Murphy said it's not a perfect budget, but it’s a reasonable plan that invests in teachers and state employees — a plentiful commodity in Pitt — and cuts income taxes to put more money back in our pockets. Murphy is right.

Budget as usual: Good, bad and ugly (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- Partisan disagreements over the state budget have existed practically since state budgets began being crafted — no matter which party controlled the legislature or the governor’s mansion. But a constant feature of every state budget, as we have routinely pointed out throughout the years, is that they always contain the usual amount of the good, the bad and the just plain ugly. And this year is no exception.

Districts should reflect reality, not politicians' will (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) – For all the genius they poured into the architecture of the federal system, the framers of the U.S. Constitution devoted scant attention to the central issue of how to draw the districts that determine representation in the U.S. House.

DAVID A. LIEB: How gerrymandering benefited GOP in 2016 (AP Analysis) -- Traditional battlegrounds such as North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010. The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and assembly seats up for election last year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage. It’s designed to detect cases in which one party may have won, widened or retained its grip on power through political gerrymandering. The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts.

BOB HALL: In N.C., too many ‘unacceptable’ voters (Charlotte Observer column) -- Instead of protecting voters from cheaters, the ID law cheated too many honest citizens out of their vote. Election documents reveal that over 1,400 citizens lost their right to vote in the 2016 primary when the ID law was in effect – and that’s just the number who spent time completing extra forms, hoping their ballots would count. Many more without an “acceptable” photo ID simply left the poll. North Carolina’s law had about the shortest list of acceptable IDs in the nation. According to court records, legislators knowingly designed the list to disadvantage the poor, African Americans, and students.

DAVID A. LIEB: How much partisanship is too much? Efficiency gap gauges it (AP Analysis) -- Since its creation a few years ago, the efficiency gap has been embraced as "corroborative evidence" by a federal appeals court panel that ruled that Wisconsin Republicans intentionally drew district boundaries for the state Assembly to the disadvantage of Democrats. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on that case. If upheld, it could set a nationwide precedent for determining when partisan gerrymandering crosses the line into an unconstitutional infringement on voters' rights to representation. The Associated Press used a version of the efficiency gap formula — developed by University of Chicago law professor Nick Stephanopoulos and researcher Eric McGhee of the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California — to analyze the results of the 2016 U.S. House and state House or Assembly elections.

JONATHAN DREW: NC ranks high in partisan imbalance, despite even voter preferences (AP analysis) -- North Carolina’s congressional and state House districts are among the most Republican-skewed in the country despite voter preferences that are relatively evenly split, according to an Associated Press analysis. The AP calculated the partisan advantage for North Carolina Republicans in the 2016 state and federal House races through a new statistical tool that’s designed to detect cases in which a political party maintained or increased its grip on power through how it drew voting districts.

WILLIAM BARBER: The GOP colluded with racism to hack N.C. election (NBC News column) -- While public testimonies of former intelligence agency directors and an Attorney General have provided made-for-TV drama in recent weeks, they have not yet furnished clarity as to whether a sitting President’s campaign helped Russia hack our 2016 electoral process.

VANESSA WILLIAMS: Activist calls voter suppression greater threat to democracy than election tampering (Washington Post analysis) -- Rev. William Barber, the preacher known for helping to lead the fight against strict voter laws in North Carolina, marched with other faith leaders in Washington on Friday to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2013 Supreme Court decision that all but neutered the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

MARK BARRETT: Chief justice pushes merit selection of N.C. judges (Asheville Citizen-Times analysis) -- North Carolina should go to merit selection of its judges to insulate the courts from political influence, state Chief Supreme Court Justice Mark Martin said here Saturday. Martin told the N.C. Bar Association, the professional association for attorneys, that the General Assembly should set a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would end the current system of choosing judges in popular elections.

TAYLOR BATTEN: N.C.’s chief justice is worried. You should be too (Charlotte Observer column) -- With North Carolina’s Republican legislature constantly assaulting the judiciary’s independence, it’s one thing for editorial writers to call for taking some politics out of the courtroom by fundamentally changing how judges are selected. It’s quite another for the chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court – and a Republican, no less – to do so. Chief Justice Mark Martin on Saturday called on legislators to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to have judges appointed rather than have them parade before voters in partisan elections. He said that approach would best create an independent and well-qualified judiciary.

School Districts Fight Segregation on Their Own (New York Times) -- A growing number of school districts are refusing to accept segregation. One hundred school districts and charter school networks in 32 states, particularly in North Carolina, California, Florida, Iowa, New York, and Minnesota, are promoting integration by taking socioeconomic status into account as they assign children to schools, according to a 2016 analysis by The Century Foundation. Just two districts were doing that 20 years ago. These districts typically go about this by redrawing attendance boundaries or creating magnet schools.

MAUREEN DOWD: Donald skunks the Democrats (New York Times column) -- They can’t just waltz in and win seats held by Republicans. And they can’t go full Bernie. They have to drum up suburban candidates who reflect their districts, Emanuel says, noting that they wrenched back control of Congress by recruiting a football player in North Carolina, an Iraq veteran in Pennsylvania and a sheriff in Indiana.

Compensation time (Winston-Salem Journal) -- For almost two years now, victims of North Carolina’s forced sterilization program who qualified for compensation have been waiting for their third and final payment. With almost all appeals exhausted, that time may rightly be here.

RICHARD CARVER: Legislators move forward on controversial bills affecting groups overseeing behavioral health providers (Winston-Salem Journal analysis) -- State legislators appear content to push forward competing — and co-opted — bills that would tighten oversight of behavioral health managed-care organizations.

Bad idea lurks in N.C. House (Charlotte Observer) -- Legislature is considering backing a constitutional convention under Article V.

BOB HALL: No common sense in voter ID law (Winston-Salem Journal column) -- Janice Franklin has some advice for state legislators preparing to rewrite the photo ID law that the U.S. Supreme Court recently declared unconstitutional. “They should look at what happened last time before doing a new one,” she told me.

ROSE HOBAN: U.S. Senate’s Health Care Bill Would Profoundly Change NC Medicaid (N.C. Health News analysis) -- The Senate version of the Obamacare repeal accomplishes much of its cost-cutting by taking about $800 billion out of Medicaid.

STEPHANIE CARSON: N.C. Churches spread message of love on I-40 (Public News Service column) -- A religious debate is taking place along a stretch of one of North Carolina's major interstates. This week, drivers on I-40 near Statesville will notice two billboards - one supporting President Donald Trump's immigration ban on Muslims, and the other with a very different message. The North Carolina Council of Churches says it purchased a billboard to spread a biblical message that runs counter to the one put up in May by another religious group.

KIRK ROSS: Butler Raises GenX Issue During Budget Talks (Coastal Review analysis) -- New Hanover County’s Rep. Deb Butler pointed to concern about the GenX compound in the Wilmington area’s drinking water supply and DEQ permitting backlogs in a plea to spare the agency from cuts in the budget passed Thursday.

SAHRH OGLETREE & ABBEY EDNE: Moving beyond coal - and the rhetoric around it (Asheville Citizen-Times column) -- While environmentalists proclaim the dangers of the coal industry, miners are fighting for their livelihoods, and residents of the coalfields are battling worsening health and environmental conditions — the consequence of intensive mining. But despite their common interest, the divisive rhetoric surrounding coal means these different groups rarely engage in meaningful dialogue.

The face of the problem (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Whether immigration officials on Friday allow Minerva Garcia of Winston-Salem to stay in this country with her two young children — and we hope they do — this case must be one more that persuades the president and Congress to finally reform our broken immigration system.

FRAN DANIEL: Driverless vehicles impact on North Carolina (Winston-Salem Journal analysis) -- It took 75 years for the automobile to go from 10 percent to 90 percent adoption by households in the United States, notes Kevin Lacy, North Carolina’s state traffic engineer. But the cellphone went from 10 percent to 90 percent in 14 years. and the smartphone made it in just three years. Once driverless vehicles become available in the marketplace, how long will it take them to saturate the transportation environment?

SUSAN LADD: Policies forged in secrecy need extra scrutiny (Greensboro News & Record column) -- Both the N.C. budget and the Senate's health-care bill disproportionately would benefit the rich and hurt the poor.

TRAVIS FAIN: Virginia's GOP budget writers are worried about the Obamacare repeal bill. Should N.C.'s be? (WRAL-TV analysis) -- Virginia legislative leaders are pushing back against the U.S. Senate's Obamacare repeal bill, saying it's unfair to states that didn't expand Medicaid. What other states didn't expand Medicaid? Well, North Carolina, for starters.

TAYLOR KNOPF: After Playing Hide-and-Seek, Opioid Treatment Funds Appear in the NC Budget (N.C. Health News analysis) -- The final appropriation for addressing the spike in use, overdoses is $10.4 million over two years, in addition to federal funds.

PAUL WOOLVERTON: State lawmakers bring home the bacon (Fayetteville Observer column) -- Democrats cry ‘Pork!’ as GOP-controlled legislature sends millions of dollars to special projects throughout North Carolina.

A boost for film industry, but we should do better (Wilmington Star-News) -- We wish North Carolina didn’t have to play the incentives game to lure businesses here. But as long as other states are playing, we can’t afford to be on the sidelines. So we are pleased that the N.C. General Assembly’s proposed budget provides more than $30 million in film incentives for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Even better: It’s a recurring item, meaning production companies can count on it in future years.

Let eye surgery bill die (Fayetteville Observer) -- In late April, a bill that would allow optometrists to perform some simple eye surgeries won easy approval by the North Carolina House of Representatives. The bill was sent over to the Senate, where it passed its first reading and then was referred to the Senate’s Rules Committee. As of last week, that’s where it sat. It’s where it should die.

JOHN RAILEY: Would we have treated Indians any differently? (Winston-Salem Journal column) -- Our shared history can confound in its contradictions. Howard University in D.C., one of the nation’s premier African-American institutions, was named for a white man, Union Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, who literally gave his right arm for freedom, losing it while fighting in the Civil War.

Tim White: All the drug laws in the world can’t beat law of supply, demand (Fayetteville Observer column) -- Jeff Sessions wants to turn loose the full force of the law against the illegal drug trade in America. When you’re the attorney general of the United States, that’s a pretty powerful weapon. Unfortunately, it pales before the most uniquitous and omnipotent law of all: The Law of Supply and Demand. Like 50 years of law enforcement officials before him, Sessions want to ramp up the War on Drugs again.

JEFF HAMPTON: Sharks have been a major disruption for fishermen off the Outer Banks this year (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot analysis) -- Fishing off the Outer Banks has been great this year, especially with big hauls of tuna. But boat captains are losing up to 20 fish a day to the opportunistic predators. “This is the highest bite rate I’ve seen in 27 years. ... These bites ain’t small either.”

Releasing critic’s utility history won’t ‘maintain integrity’ (Elizabeth City Daily Advance) -- As a business that relies on public information to do its job informing readers, The Daily Advance obviously wants government officials to release as much of it to the public as possible. There is something troubling, however, about Elizabeth City officials’ recent decision to release the utility records of a city utility customer who has been a vocal critic of those same officials over their handling of the city’s ongoing utility billing crisis.

CELIA RIVENBARK: Don’t lie to me, Fredo ... (Wilmington Star-News column) -- The Princess is spending the summer working as a news intern at the StarNews, the newspaper where I met her father. “He was a long drink of water...” I begin, preparing to launch a loving remembrance of how a sports guy and a features girl met in a mid-market daily and one thing led to another.

SCOTT THOMAS GULLEDGE: Officials expect Thomas to fill void at TransPark (Greenville Reflector analysis) -- Allen Thomas begins his job as executive director of the Global TransPark on Thursday, but he’s already busy with an approach that supporters hope will set him apart from previous leadership. Thomas, who announced June 13 he would be stepping down as Greenville’s mayor, visited the park last week to observe work at Spirit Aerosystems, a company which produces the fuselages for Airbus aircraft at the TransPark.

Blessing in disguise (Greensboro News & Record) -- God bless the irony. A foul barrage of racist tweets helped to convince the Southern Baptist Convention last week to formally denounce the tenets of white extremism.

JAY PRICE: Trump Administration Dumps UNC From Anti-Extremism Program (WUNC-FM analysis) -- The Department of Homeland Security will proceed with an Obama Administration grant program to counter violent extremism, but UNC-Chapel Hill is among a handful of recipients that will be left out.

Trump slashes grant money combating white extremism (AP analysis) -- The Trump administration on Friday slashed federal funding for U.S. groups that combats white extremism but denied it is now focusing only on fighting radical Islamists. The agency said the grants, awarded under the Combatting Violent Extremism program, will target "all forms of violent extremism, including the rising threat from Islamist terrorism." Spokesman David Lapan this week denied the program is now concentrating only on Islamic extremism. Eleven Obama-approved grants also cut, including $867,000 for the University of North Carolina to produce anti-jihadist videos, 400,000 from a Life After Hate in Chicago to fight white extremism and $393,800 for the Muslim Public Affairs Council Foundation.

GENE SMITH: So long, and thanks for all the revenue (Fayetteville Observer column) -- The fatal irony of what passes for conservatism in the 21st century will become clear, I suppose, when the North Carolina General Assembly, having bled local budgets white, finds itself having to “grow” state government to keep it usable for transfusing revenue from The Little People to The Right People. Don’t take that literally. Not every lawmaker deserves to be grouped with the Jackals of Jones Street.

KAY MCSPADDEN: The evidence is clear, vouchers don’t work (Charlotte Observer column) -- Despite consistent evidence that school vouchers negatively impact students, policymakers plan to keep spending on them.

Finally, some clearer thinking on sex offenders (LA Times) -- After years of panicked and excessively punitive lawmaking against sex offenders, cooler heads are beginning to prevail. The U.S. Supreme Court, for example, on Monday struck down a North Carolina law that effectively banned registered sex offenders from using any social media that is also accessible by children.

Raising the age for adult court was wise move (Wilson Times) -- THUMBS UP to state lawmakers for voting to raise the age for most adult criminal charges from 16 to 18, making North Carolina the last state to extend its juvenile court jurisdiction.

JASON ZENGERLE: In Defense of the One-and-Done (New York Times column) -- A benefit of living in a small college town with a big-time college basketball team is that in the course of grocery shopping, changing your car’s oil or donating blood, there’s a not-insignificant chance that you’ll meet in real life the hoops stars you watch on TV. That happened last summer: My daughter Georgia and I were running an errand on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus when we bumped into Tony Bradley.

Diving into cultural/historical tourism (Wilmington Star-News) -- It’s been more than half a century since the wreck of the blockade runner Modern Greece was freed from the sand by a hurricane, opening the modern age of underwater archaeology in North Carolina. Now, ordinary folks can get in on the fun.

Tarleton devoted Wilson career to service above self (Wilson Times) -- After laboring to make Wilson a better place for nearly four decades, Hal Tarleton is leaving the workforce for a well-deserved retirement. At month’s end, Tarleton will hang up his hammer at the Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity,


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